Girl’s Empowerment: the key to Ethiopia’s development

By: Dr Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia

 Julius Court, Acting Head of Office, DFID Ethiopia

As we rapidly approach the deadline of 2015 for reporting our progress against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is already clear that Ethiopia will have much success to report and an inspiring story to tell. Indeed most of the MDG targets will be not only met, but surpassed by a good distance, well ahead of time.

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Girls and women everywhere have the right to live free from violence and discrimination. Help end child, early and forced marriage in a generation. Picture: Jessica Lea/Department for International Development

And yet the median age of marriage for girls is still 16.5 years. Indeed it is no coincidence that those MDGs that have been lagging the furthest behind are those to do with women and girls: MDG three on women’s empowerment and MDG five on maternal mortality.

A study commissioned by Girl Hub Ethiopia, a UK Department for International Development (DFID) project, found that if every Ethiopian girl who drops out of school was instead able to finish her education it would add US$4 billion to the country’s economy over the course of her lifetime.

As the country approaches a period of demographic dividend, with fewer young dependents, it has a major opportunity to benefit from the kind of economic growth we saw from the Asian Tiger economies. As the evidence shows, in the context of the next Growth and Transformation Plan, it will be impossible for Ethiopia to continue its economic and development progress at the same rate without addressing the issue of girls’ and women’s rights head on.

Acknowledging this, the Government of Ethiopia is, of course, already taking bold steps. At the Girl Summit – jointly hosted by the UK government and UNICEF in London in July 2014 – H.E. Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy PM, made a ground-breaking commitment on behalf of the Government of Ethiopia to eradicate child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) by 2025.

Much work has already gone into putting this commitment into action, but there are five areas that DFID and UNICEF believe are critical to any successful plan.

A girl student hard at work at Beseka ABE Center in in Fantale Woreda of Oromia State
A girl student hard at work at Beseka ABE Center in in Fantale Woreda of Oromia State ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

First, keeping girls in school, particularly through transition to secondary education and ensuring high quality basic education. At the same time, we need to ensure zero tolerance for violence within the school environment and ensure they have the right facilities for girls such as adequate sanitation.

In the Somali region of Ethiopia – where many aspects of gender inequality are particularly pronounced – DFID and UNICEF are jointly supporting a multi-sectoral Peace and Development Programme that will improve girls’ and women’s access to justice by establishing legal aid services and support services for female victims of violence.

Secondly, raising national rates of birth registration from the current level of less than 10 per cent to more than 90 per cent by 2020. Proof of age will assist in implementing and enforcing laws on child marriage and will also have positive knock-on effects on trafficking and illegal labour migration, for example. UNICEF supports the government of Ethiopia in establishing a vital event registration system (for births, deaths and marriages) in the country through technical and financial support. The support has allowed the enactment of a proclamation on vital events and the establishment of a national agency. Currently, regional laws are being adopted, regional bodies established, staff recruited and capacities developed.

Thirdly, changing social norms through an evidence-based, regional approach that is cognizant of and uses local languages and customs. DFID is supporting the Finote Hiwot project in Amhara to reduce child marriage through changing social norms and providing economic incentives for girls to stay in school.

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‘Yegna’ concert in Akaki ©Rachael Canter Flickr

Fourthly, changing public perceptions through multi-media campaigns that highlight positive role models to enable girls’ and young women’s empowerment. For example, Girl Hub Ethiopia’s Yegna radio programme uses both male and female role models to influence attitudes and behaviours towards girls. It broadcasts to more than five million people in Addis Ababa and the Amhara region and early data shows that 63 per cent of listeners say the programme made them think differently about issues in girls’ lives such as child marriage and gender-based violence.

The Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs recently hosted a Girl Summit follow-up meeting to discuss how members of the National Alliance to End Child Marriage and the National FGM Network could help deliver the commitments Ethiopia made at the Summit. A 12-month communication campaign plan will be launched in the coming weeks.

Finally, contributing to the national, regional and global evidence and evaluation database is central to realising the commitment made at the Girl Summit. The National Alliance to End Child Marriage and the National FGM Network are improving data gathering and knowledge sharing and fostering innovation. We must ensure that relevant indicators on child marriage and FGM/C are included in next year’s Demographic Health Survey.

Of course there is a great deal to be optimistic about as we embark on this ambitious journey together. The Government of Ethiopia has demonstrated extraordinary commitment and we look for their future leadership by integrating girl issues into the GTP 2 and future sector policies.

We are confident that just as we do now in the social sector, in the future we will view Ethiopia as a model for delivering real change for girls and women.

Time to radically enhance learning outcomes for children

By: Dr. Jim Ackers, Regional Education Adviser for UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office 

Pupils study at a library donated and supported by Unicef at Tutis Primary School
Pupils study at a library donated and supported by UNICEF at Tutis Primary School in Oromia State of Ethiopia 26 November 2013. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines education as a basic right for children. Education is key to achieving the MDGs, as well as to the attainment of the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of every child. While governments in the developing world are doing their best to increase enrolment in primary education, there is still a long way to go when it comes to improving learning outcomes and the quality of education.

The 11th Education for All Global Monitoring Report, launched in Addis Ababa on the 29 January 2014, provides some alarming figures, which call for the attention of all stakeholders involved in the education sector. The report reveals that poor quality education is costing governments US$129 billion a year. It also indicates that in many of the sub-Saharan African countries, only “one in five of the poorest children reach the end of primary school having learnt the basics in reading and mathematics.”  If we are not able to address the problem of poor quality education, it will take another century for all girls from the ‘poorest families in sub-Saharan Africa to finish lower secondary school”. These findings are not acceptable at all.

If poor quality education is costing governments billions of dollars and if it is leaving millions of children behind, then what should be done?  The Education for All Global Monitoring Report findings explicitly indicate that it is important to provide teachers with adequate training. Moreover, making teaching quality a national priority yields positive results.  Countries such as Ethiopia, Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania for instance include improving quality and learning outcomes as an explicit priority alongside expanding access.

Pupils attend a class at Tutis Primary School in Oromia State of Ethiopia
Pupils attend a class at Tutis Primary School in Oromia State of Ethiopia 26 November 2013. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

Countries need to expand their teachers force and put in place mechanisms in which incentives will be provided to retain the best performing teachers. Ensuring the equitable distribution of teachers within countries has been a major challenge for many years, although some examples of effective policies are emerging.  Poor children, especially girls in more remote areas, as well as children in informal urban settings are often the most affected by lack of access to competent teachers. These same children are the most likely to drop out of education according to evidence gathered by UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics through the global Out of School Children Study Initiative. Even if they do not drop out they are the most likely to have poor learning outcomes according to global surveys such and the findings of regional surveys such as those of the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Education Quality. The learning needs of children with disabilities and those affected by emergencies also need to be much better served.

Teachers are a key component of quality education. Others are access to quality teaching and learning materials, school management, quality assurance, assessment and the curriculum. The curriculum should be relevant to the learner and delivered through a familiar language in early primary school if children are to attain the foundational skills required for life long learning. School infrastructure is also important, not least the provision of separate latrines for girls and boys – a goal to which UNICEF is very committed in its holistic vision of Child Friendly Education.

Life-long learning and the development of core skills for employability are critical imperatives in the development of individuals and nations. Early Grade Reading Assessments in many countries have demonstrated that many children are fated to long term illiteracy because they have not developed and may never develop these foundational skills. More attention should therefore be given to early childhood development and the prioritisation of early primary in terms of resource allocation. We have done much together as partners to address enrolment issues, and more remains to be done here. However there is now a global consensus that education without learning is of limited value. We are now committed, alongside our partner to putting much more emphasis on innovative ways to enhance the learning of all children to help overcome the global learning crisis which disproportionately affects the poorest children.

UNICEF has education programmes and experts on the ground in 20 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.  We support governments, preferably within the framework of sector wide approaches, to enhance equity and quality in all these countries. We also work closely with other partners, including UN sister agencies, not least UNESCO, other multi-laterals, various donors, civil society and the private sector (including the Schools for Africa initiative).  The African Union and sub-regional bodies such as the EAC, IGAD and SADC are key partners. UNICEF is a very active member of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, for which we recently developed two key papers on Teacher Education.

Tiye Fayissa of Unicef Ethiopia poses for photo with students at Oda Aniso Primary School in Oromia Region of Ethiopia
Tiye Fayissa of UNICEF Ethiopia poses for photo with students at Oda Aniso Primary School in Oromia Region of Ethiopia 26 November 2013. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

A key focus for UNICEF is now on helping government to ensure that policies and plans actually work and impact on realities in schools and children.  The development of national minimum standards for all children is a critical area where we have engaged, as is the enhancement of learning assessment, including membership of the global Learning Metrics Task Force and support for SACMEQ.  But setting standards is not enough in itself. Quality development is required. Addressing teacher education and management issues on the ground is critical in this regard.  UNICEF has supported teacher education in most of the countries in which we work in Eastern and Southern Africa.  Results based management means that we talk of inputs, outputs and outcomes. But what really counts in the classroom is the process of learning.  A committed and competent teacher is critical to this process. Sadly didactic teaching is the norm in many countries. This also helps explain the learning crisis.

Notable recent examples of UNICEF support to governments on teacher issues are: development of an in-service training system and programme in Tanzania; enhancing co-ordination and mentoring in the teacher education system in Uganda, support to the training for teachers who work in the Alternative Basic Education system in Ethiopia. Our work with the Global Partnership for Education has also reinforced our focus on teacher education in countries like Zimbabwe, Somalia and South Sudan for example. UNICEF is also committed to enhancing the evidence base on what works in teacher education. Examples of previous publications are given below[1].

UNICEF is committed to enhancing its contribution to enhanced teaching and learning through strengthening partnerships at all levels – sub-national, country, regional and global through supporting innovative, scalable approaches to promote learning, not least for the most marginalised child. We are committed to working more closely with partners to ensure that systemic bottlenecks that affect actual service delivery on the ground are addressed and that we actually meet children’s and teachers needs and improve learning through enhancing classroom environments and processes.

Investing in Girls for MDG Acceleration

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With roughly 700 days left until the target date for the Millennium Development Goals, the Secretary-General, along with the two co-chairs and several members of his MDG Advocacy Group, will participate in a moderated luncheon discussion to accelerate progress on the MDGs focusing on girls as a critical investment.  The Secretary-General and the two co-Chairs, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Prime Minster Erna Solberg of Norway, will open the programme and Hannah Godefa, a 16-year old UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia and Sumaya Saluja, a member of the Global Education First Initiative’s Youth Advocacy Group, will lead an inter-generational dialogue with the Advocates. The programme will include interventions from other governments, businesses and media leaders, including Tina Brown.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on his recent influencer piece on LInkedIN said “Today, there are 57 million children out of school – and most of them are girls. While disturbing, this represents a huge opportunity – because we know, from indisputable experience, the benefits of investing in girls. And there is no more valuable investment than in a girl’s education.”

The growing momentum around girls as catalysts for development is undeniable. Malala Yousafzai, whose voice resonated around the world as a champion for girls’ education, has helped advance the importance of addressing this often overlooked issue in philanthropic and core business strategies.

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Hannah Godefa, UNICEF Ethiopia National Goodwill Ambassador, will participate at the World Economic Forum event focusing on girls education. Hannah impressed  many when she made a speech at the highly successful International Day of the Girl Child at UNICEF Head Quarters in October last year on “Innovating for Girls’ Education” and when she moderated the event where Katy Perry was named UNICEF’s newest Goodwill Ambassador. Read biography of Hannah Godefa.

Investing in Girls’ Empowerment for MDG Acceleration session at the World Economic Forum will highlight specific approaches that enable girls and women worldwide to learn, earn, thrive, and control their own destinies. The focus will be on replicating and scaling-up successful quality programmes, promoting innovative approaches including quick adoption of broadband and ICTs for education and health, and encouraging collaboration to ensure the best outcomes for girls and their communities.

Event Details:
Investing in Girls for MDG Acceleration
Luncheon with the SG and MDG Advocates hosted by the UN Foundation
Thursday, 23 January 2014, 12:30 – 2:30 pm
Salon Atlantis, Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere, Promenade 89,
Davos, Switzerland

More on event website

Watch the MDG Advocates event live on 23 January (coming soon)

Follow Tweets about “#investingirls” or @UNICEFEthiopia